there is something deeply seductive about this little discovery; how the place sort of found me, rather than me finding it. ‘the best way that I’ve heard this described is like some sort of oasis’ says Sam, as we walk back, three of us under the floodlit underpass.
something so uniquely human about this space. like a moss, growing in the cracks… unrefined, a bit wild but indisputably alive.
the fire draws us into the less familiar world of primitive man, against a backdrop of rampant advancement and progress. the shard and the gherkin shine out with the bright lights of the city, as the metro chugs along in the slowly darkening night – a kingdom crafted from steel, concrete and glass. beer cans scattered like the metropolis. hands warming by the fire. different languages spoken, different lives being lived and shared between minds so fundamentally different, yet clearly joined in this momentary instant of mutual appreciation.
Jay and two Italians practicing stick against the graffiti wall, utterly absorbed in the activity accompanied by the trance rhythms pumping from the speaker. I look on, equally absorbed in the skill that this Italian man has dedicated hours, days, years of his life to perfecting, with the utmost dedication and focus as if he were meditating on each movement; getting lost in the dynamism and flow of his art; something that exists outside himself – spirals, flicks and spins that exist independent of him; a spectacle that lives and breathes and dances with a life of its own, like the man is tapping into the movements themselves, rather than creating them. As if the movements are magnetically drawing his arms to move in this way, as if the spectacle is carving itself out in the crisp still air. puppet becomes puppet master? cigarette pursed between his lips. he is absorbed. I speak to his friend Jay; a man who seems more broken than alive. ‘it’s a wonderful art… I’ll show you. Oh, wait, I’m actually quite drunk…sorry, I’ll show you another time.’ it’s four o’clock on a Sunday.
a couple leaves and a space opens up for me by the fire. I slot in and I really feel that sensation of entering a circle. not so much that feeling of joining a ‘group’, but rather that wonderfully tactile feeling of slotting into an activity that a collection of other minds are engaged with. I think there is something so essential about fire, about drawing in to the warmth, to the burning of life where the flames are animate with chaotic flickers that I will never fully understand. I value fire because it is the picture of irrationality; it is chaos – if you look closely enough there just isn’t that logic, that we have slowly learnt to expect from life; every flicker and crackle is different and will only ever happen once in that way. I really think the behaviour of fire is fascinating to me in this moment because it invites me to think about my own brain. the neurones, crackling and spitting and flickering to keep the logs warm in my mind. to keep me switched on, energised and alive. the fire mirrors the introspective mind – energy working together to create something that sustains, all within a system that can never be fully grasped.
there is something very special to me about this little scene. it is like a clandestine life growing in the cracks of the cold machine of London, with the binders and weeds reclaiming chaos amidst all the order. and it is a real pleasure to at least momentarily feel part of this… to be part of the moss, the mould, the roots that breaks out through the concrete cracks to assert in its own inevitable way, the irrepressibility of life. that aliveness can never really be denied, no matter how hard we try, it will fill any space that is left for it.
I catch eyes with one of the Italians opposite me, across the now roaring flames. the flicker of the fire brings out that little flicker in her eyes and all of a sudden I feel very drawn to them; just as I was drawn to the fire, again… the essential is what draws us. I smile because I can just enjoy little glimpse and my mind has decided to stay put… rather than run away with its familiar bedfellows of lust, love and fantasy. we actually end up catching eyes momentarily, and as my mind is still, so are my eyes. I hold my gaze and in a wonderful way, so does she. she smiles a very honest little smile to me, a smile that tells me that in another time, perhaps another place, with all the formalities and social norms stripped away, with all the barriers of our conditioning and language taken away… with all that removed… there would be a nice little connection here. just because. but of course, all the red tape is here and I don’t mind. neither does she, hence the smile. it is inviting but more crucially ‘amicable’, almost like a silent agreement that we make to enjoy each other’s gaze, to warm ourselves in whatever is flickering with life inside them and then to return our gaze to the fire. momentarily I feel a new warmth bubble up in my core, and I am so happy to find that I am satisfied with this. it shows I am becoming more at peace with myself. By the time I have finished conversing with Sam and Yasser, the Italian girl is gone, and it just doesn’t matter to me.
I have stumbled into a little community here that is organic and authentic and that crackles with the warmth of a fire spiralling smoke up to the city heights.